In order to bring the Annual Customer Review program to life, I interviewed a sales executive who leads a $1 billion sales force delivering Annual Customer Reviews. It was crystal clear after the interview that the vision one has for the program and the reality once the program has been launched are often very different. If you understand the importance of gathering feedback from the field to improve upon the process and then adjusting your course to make program improvements, the overall goals for the Annual Customer Review program can eventually be realized.
When I asked the sales executive to identify the biggest challenges his company faced during the program launch, he noted that the first challenge he encountered was poor adoption of the program by the sales force. Headquarters was asking the sales force to do something they had never done before, i.e. deliver information to a customer in a structured format that was created by someone else. The information presented didn’t always tell a great story about the customer’s business, and the sales force wasn’t comfortable with delivering the message. The sales force eventually became accustomed to delivering the right message, but it took a fair amount of leadership coaching and support materials to get the sales force over this hurdle. Coaching documents were created to provide the sales force with the right messaging for each major data point delivered in the review document, and sales leaders provided necessary coaching prior to delivery of a customer review.
The second challenge he faced during the program launch was getting the content in the Annual Customer Review document to be meaty enough. The document that was delivered to the customer had been creatively put together, but the information didn’t provide a compelling story or have the substance necessary to keep the customer participants engaged in a meaningful business discussion. Over time, the content in their customer review document has improved. The document now contains key data points that are understandable to the customer audience, and drives the interactive dialogue that was intended during the initial launch of the program.
There must be an adequate amount of awareness and training provided to the sales force well in advance of a program launch to drive the desired behaviors and results. The challenges faced by our sales executive during program launch are not uncommon. An assessment of his sales force prior to launch may have prevented some of their early program challenges. In part two (2) of my interview with our Sales Executive we will uncover the on-going challenges faced with his Annual Customer Review program.